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Hike on the trail to safety

May 22, 2017

Now that the weather is nice, you might be tempted to take a hike. But before you set off to explore the great outdoors, keep these safety tips in mind to avoid a trip to the ER:

Have a plan. Don’t keep it to yourself. “Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return,” says Nancy Pook, MD, medical director of Kettering Medical Center’s Emergency Department. “If you are hiking with a group, decide where you are going to meet if you get separated. This could be back at the trailhead, at the car or at a big rock.”

Dress for success. “Wear clothing and footwear appropriate for the terrain and season,” advises Dr. Pook. To prevent against mosquito and tick bites, wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants and shoes — not sandals. Also opt for light-colored clothes. They make it easier to spot ticks so you can brush them off before they attach. If you are bringing the kids along be sure to dress them in bright colors so they can be easily seen.

Use insect repellent that includes the ingredient DEET. Do not to put insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old, and do not apply repellent on any child’s hands, eyes, mouth, and cuts or irritated skin.

Educate yourself. Stay on the hiking path. Learn how to identify and avoid toxic plants like poison oak, sumac or ivy to avoid a trip to the ER.

Pack appropriately. Bring water, food, a cellphone, a map or a compass, a whistle, a headlamp, and a flashlight.

Stay hydrated. When you hike or do any kind of exercise in hot weather, you cool off by sweating, which causes you to lose body fluids. If you do not replace these fluids, you can become dehydrated. “Your body may then have difficulty sweating and cooling down,” explains Dr. Pook. “This can lead to heat injury ranging from moderate problems, like heat cramps and heat exhaustion, to medical emergencies, like heat stroke.”

Choose wisely. Hike on an established trail, and stay out of areas declared off limits to hikers.

Watch where you are walking. “That is a modern-day warning more of us need to heed,” Dr. Pook says. Whether we are lost in the music coming through our earbuds, talking on our phone or sending some texts, many of us are not focused on what is in front of us as we hike. Keep your focus on the people and potential obstacles in front of and around you.

Take it easy in the beginning. If you just started hiking or if you have not exercised recently, forget speed and walk at a comfortable pace. Then gradually work up to 100 steps a minute.